Influencer marketing is here to stay, but how do you find influencers in the first place? The first step in your influencer marketing campaign is finding influencers who are actually influential – sounds simple, but it’s not as easy as you think! – and whose audience is comprised of people who your brand would resonate with. No, not every person following an influencer will jump at the idea of your brand, but when you find the right influencer, a large chunk of their following can ultimately become a customer.
Keep in mind, not every influencer you reach out to will be interested in working with you and your brand, so while you should be finding influencers who are a perfect fit to your brand voice, target demographic, and aesthetic, make sure that you’re reaching out to a large enough bucket since you will not be hearing back from everyone you pitch.
This is just like public relations and media outreach; you might reach out to the perfect 10 editors and only hear back from one, or even none. Instead, you should reach out to at least 50 editors and then you’ll see a better response rate. You can research and over-analyze the fit of the influencer as much as you want, but it’s important to establish an efficient process rather than getting bogged down making sure every influencer is 100% a perfect fit and then getting no responses or a very small number of responses.
What Can Influencer Marketing Do for Your Brand
Influencer Marketing plays a number of roles in your overall marketing strategy and KPIs. Essentially it’s another form of advertising; using an influencer’s following as your audience you are trying to reach to spread your message. Here are a few ways influencer marketing can make a splash for your brand.
- Brand Awareness
Much like PR, influencer marketing ignites a conversation around your brand in front of a large audience, which creates brand awareness. If you have a new product or service, or are looking to reach a new audience with updated messaging, influencer marketing is a great channel to generate interest and first-touch knowledge. Working with an influencer means you have one person with an influence over their large audience that also may be interested in your brand. You can then tap into an influencer’s audience and create new customers.
Brand awareness with influencer marketing is two-fold, because as you’re building awareness with the audience of the influencer after they post about the brand, you’re also generating brand awareness amongst other influencers. This is an area that often goes unnoticed as brands and marketers don’t necessarily think they are reaching other influencers through working with an influencer, but rather just working with an end-consumer.
If you think about it, an influencer’s audience isn’t just normal, everyday people who would be interested in your brand; influencers support other influencers and typically one influencer will have garnered a following that is also comprised of a number of similar bloggers and influencers. We’ve found that through working with influencers, other influencers also become aware of your brand and either reach out for a collaboration, or organically become a brand advocate because it’s something they genuinely like. Reaching a second or third influencer through one influencer partnership can expand your reach and create new relationships. Additionally, influencers will typically follow and engage with other influencers who are similar to them, which means it’s an easy win to identify new influencers to work with that are already a fit for your brand.
- Brand Advocates
While you’re securing social media coverage with influencers and getting a direct touchpoint on their audience, you are also creating brand advocates with the influencers themselves. You’re spreading brand knowledge and messaging to people who would actually use your brand’s product or service on a regular basis, which is your opportunity to leave a great first impression and do everything you can to support the campaign and make their life easier.
When you create an excellent partnership that is mutually-beneficial with an influencer, you will, in turn, create brand advocates who not only post on social media as part of your partnership but also talk about the brand to friends and family. This word of mouth marketing isn’t super measurable but goes a long way when you form a great relationship with an influencer.
Have you thought about working with influencers to generate reviews? A number of brands have integrated a review system into their influencer marketing campaigns, where influencers agree to write an honest review on the company’s Google profile, product pages, Yelp and more. This is an easy win because it doesn’t involve much work on the influencer side and is a great way to get positive reviews without having to rely on your customers or friends to leave reviews.
- User-Generated Content
Another huge component of an influencer marketing campaign is user-generated content (UGC). Whether influencers are creating images or video, these are assets that every digital marketing campaign needs to flourish. Part of your influencer marketing campaign should include an image or video release, where the brand is then able to use these high-res images and videos in their marketing efforts, whether it’s for paid social ads, organic social content, or website product shots.
CMOs and CEOs are concerned with where they’re putting their dollars, which is why it’s important to note that influencer marketing isn’t just about a general brand awareness that is harder to measure and see an ROI, but instead it’s the fuel to the fire for other channels that are more direct response-oriented like paid social. Without influencer images and a pipeline of user-generated content, your ads can suffer from a lack of creative refresh and result in ad fatigue that doesn’t convert.
Step One in Finding Influencers: Identify Your Target Channel
Of course, before you get started with outreach you need to find influencers to work with. Step one is figuring out which channel you want to prioritize for outreach. At Power Digital, we focus our influencer marketing on Instagram and YouTube. Typically, Twitter or Facebook come along for the ride and influencers on YouTube or Instagram will have a smaller reach on Twitter and Facebook so it’s usually built into their rates and campaigns. Though we consider blogger outreach another arm of media relations and PR, we do work with bloggers who are also social media influencers, so you should consider also working with bloggers. You can also get started with one channel and then expand your outreach to other channels.
Keeping Cost in Mind
One thing to keep in mind when deciding if you’re going to focus on Instagram, YouTube, or both, is that Instagram is currently a more cost-effective channel than YouTube for a number of reasons. The only exception here would be if the influencer has a primary audience on Instagram and a smaller following on YouTube, then Instagram will be more expensive. If you have a small influencer spend then you will most likely want to start with Instagram.
The first reason YouTube is more expensive is that Instagram content typically involves a photo, where YouTube is video content, which means that the time spent creating a post is significantly longer on YouTube where video editing is needed. It makes sense here that someone would charge more for more of their time being spent on content creation.
The second reason is that an Instagram post’s lifetime value is not as longlasting as YouTube; an influencer may post once or multiple times a day, and then the post gets pushed down on the feed and might be missed by an audience amongst the other posts on the newsfeed. YouTube videos will live forever on a YouTube influencer’s page and there are significantly fewer videos. A YouTube influencer typically posts once a week, which means you have a full week to garner eyeballs on that video, rather than just a few hours on Instagram. Plus, when someone new subscribes to a YouTube channel, they might be checking out videos that are months or even years old, whereas that doesn’t happen on Instagram.
The third reason is that YouTube offers prime real estate for a link to live with the ability to link in the video description, while Instagram only has the options in Instagram Stories and an influencer’s bio, which many influencers do not want to give up their own blog URL real estate for a brand’s.
Finally, people will typically follow a few hundred to a few thousand people on Instagram, from influencers to family and friends. On YouTube on the other hand, people will have a more select number of YouTube channels that they are subscribed to and there is less noise and fewer posts to keep up with.
We see pricing on Instagram for one post plus Instagram Stories between $100 to a few thousand dollars, depending on the audience size, while we see YouTube sponsored prices starting at at least upper hundreds of dollars and up to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the subscriber reach.
Finding Influencers On Instagram
The key to finding influencers on Instagram: find one influencer, find many. One of the best tricks for finding influencers on Instagram (and really any other channel) is by finding one big influencer in the space and then looking at who is engaging with their content. For example, if you’re looking for healthy foodie influencers, find one foodie influencer with a few hundred thousand followers on Instagram and look at their comments to see what other influencers are engaging with their posts. Typically this takes you down a rabbit hole to the next influencer, where you can see who is engaging with their posts, and so on. These influencers are usually all posting similar content and you can add them to your influencer list.
You should also be searching hashtags. Make a list of hashtags that would be used by someone interested in your brand and search for top posts around that hashtag. If you’re struggling to figure out which hashtags to use, start with one influencer you know in your niche and see what they are using as hashtags to get inspired.
Location-based hashtags are another way to find Instagram influencers. When we’re looking for location-specific or city-specific influencers, we incorporate the name of the city of state into the hashtag. For example, if you’re targeting California influencers, try the main city hashtags like #lablogger #sanfranciscoblogger #sandiegoblogger, or if you’re looking for a more national reach, target the big metropolitan cities and use hashtags like #nycblogger #chicagoblogger #austinblogger. You can also combine location with a specific niche like #LAfoodie or #sandiegostyleblogger. Here are some other helpful hashtags you can use for different target demographics:
For fashion influencers:
For food influencers:
For fitness influencers:
For lifestyle influencers
Look up the hashtags and geotags for recent events in the influencer community. For example, Create & Cultivate is a huge influencer and creator event and just happened at the end of February in LA. Influencers flocked to this event from around the U.S. posting Instagrams using the #createcultivate hashtag and the Create & Cultivate geotag. Events like this can be a great way to find influencers who are involved in the blogging and creative community.
Look to your competitors. If you notice a competitor doing a great job working with influencers, whether you follow an influencer who posted about a brand or a brand you follow is reposting user-generated content from influencers and tagging them, this is an easy win to find influencers for your brand. You can look both at direct competitors in the space or non-direct competitors who have the same target audience. For example, if you’re a food brand that makes snacks for children, you can look to another kid snack brand as well as look at a children’s toy brand because you’re wanting to reach the same target audience even though it’s not a direct competitor. The easiest way to see the influencers they are working with is to look at the brand’s Instagram account under their tagged photos. Then you can add the influencers that look like a good fit to your influencer list.
Finding Influencers On YouTube
Fortunately for you, YouTube is a search engine. You can find videos by searching for different topics or questions someone might ask around that topic and find videos that relate. The tricky part is sifting through the search results to find influencers. As an example, if you search “vegan recipes for beginners” on YouTube, you’ll find videos that relate to that topic like “easy vegan recipes” or “lazy vegan meals” and can identify if the YouTuber is an influencer by looking at the number of views they have on their video that is showing up. YouTube will also give “related” YouTube channel suggestions on profiles and videos, which can be helpful in finding new influencers.
You can also find YouTube influencers from your Instagram influencer lists. If an Instagram influencer has a YouTube channel, they’ll have the link for it most often in the bio of their Instagram profile. Additionally, influencers on Instagram also use YouTube-specific hashtags, like #beautyvlogger, for example, or #recipevlogger, on their Instagram posts that indicate they also have a YouTube channel.
Similar to Instagram, you can also look for brands with the same target audience that are working with YouTubers as a competitor analysis and add those YouTube influencers to your list.
Finally, Google is your best friend. There are lots of top YouTuber lists in different categories that are covered by popular press that you can easily find through a simple Google search. For example, you can search “top fitness YouTubers in LA” to find appropriate accounts to look through if you’re looking to promote an LA-based fitness apparel brand.
Another key component of your influencer marketing campaign may be working with bloggers. Bloggers provide a great way to leverage a third-party endorsement or review for your brand, which serves as a written testimonial that you can use as organic social content like earning a media placement. You can also direct paid social ads to the blog post and retarget off of those who clicked on the ad using a tool called Snip.ly.
You can find social media influencers who also have blogs through the link in your Influencers’ bio on Instagram and the about section on YouTube, but it’s important to do your due diligence and not assume that the influencer’s blog is as successful as their social channels. This is something that we see often. To dive into this, you can use free tools like MOZ’s Open Site Explorer to check the blog’s domain authority, and then look at monthly traffic on SimilarWeb. If the results on SimilarWeb show that there is insufficient data, then you know that the traffic volume is very low. While blog content is great collateral to have, it sometimes is more expensive than an Instagram post because it is time-consuming to create.
We also do a competitor analysis to find new bloggers to work with by looking at a brand’s backlink profile using MOZ’s Open Site Explorer tool. If you know a similar brand or brand with a similar audience that is doing blogger collaborations, you can run a quick analysis on MOZ with the brand’s website URL to and then take a look at what blogs are linking back to the brand. From there, you can compile a list of blogs and then vet them for traffic with SimilarWeb and domain authority with MOZ.
Vetting Your Influencer Prospects
Once you’ve taken all of these steps to create a list of influencer prospects, make sure you vet each influencer you reach out to. YouTube is much easier to vet, because you can see how many views a video has, while those metrics for impressions are private to the influencer on Instagram and you only have visibility into likes and comments. It’s easy to spy a legitimate influencer on YouTube based off of their video views and number of subscribers, but it’s much harder on Instagram where it’s so competitive and influencers are more prone to purchase followers.
Vetting influencers on Instagram means that you want to make sure that the following of an Instagram influencer isn’t just a mirage and that it’s an authentic audience that isn’t full of purchased followers. The more authentic the audience, the more impact each of their posts has on their audience to draw in new potential customers to your brand.
To find out if an influencer’s following is legit or not, you should absolutely be looking at their engagement rate. You’ll see a major red flag if someone with over 60,000 followers is getting under 500 likes per photo, while someone with 30,000 followers is getting over 1,000 likes per photo. You can calculate engagement rate as total engagements (likes plus comments) divided by the following size. You’ll get a decimal that you multiply times 100 to get your percentage of engagement. We recommend working with influencers with at least a 2% engagement rate on Instagram.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the smaller the influencer, say under 100,000 followers, the higher the engagement rate should be. The higher the following, say over 100,000 followers, the harder it is to maintain a really strong engagement rate, and you can be a little more flexible with your baseline engagement rate standard.
Building A Database
Finding influencers who are perfect for your brand, vetted, and willing to collaborate is very time-consuming. There are very few shortcuts you can take to finding influencers, and typically the more due diligence you do, the better results you’ll get. That’s why it’s critical to build an influencer database of everyone you have compiled through your research and those who you have already worked with. It can be as simple as creating a master spreadsheet where all of the influencers’ information lives, or as complicated as creating your own CRM and database for influencer campaigns
We have a proprietary database at Power Digital that houses all of our influencer contacts from lifestyle, to food, to beauty, to pet and everything in between. This allows us to efficiently search for specific niches and tapping into our pre-existing contacts with ease, while constantly adding new influencers. All of the information we need is in one place and we know these influencers have been fully vetted for legitimacy.
Looking for some help with finding the perfect influencer to move the needle for your brand? We run full influencer campaigns on Instagram, YouTube, and blogs with proven results to drive awareness, traffic, and conversion. Not quite ready to take the plunge with a full-blown influencer campaign? We offer test campaigns that are efficient, cost-effective and drive big results for your brand without a long-term commitment. Contact us to learn more and let us walk you through our influencer strategy!
Related: How To Perfect Your Influencer Marketing Strategy